2018 Crypto Exchange Trading Revenue Poised to Double to $4 Billion: Bernstein

For the most part, the cryptocurrency markets have been operating on all cylinders year-to-date with the exception of one very important metric — price. And now that the bitcoin price appears to have found its footing, today’s slip to $6,410 notwithstanding, that component of the market appears to be cooperating, too. Wall Street research firm Bernstein is acknowledging the industry’s impact, predicting that cryptocurrency exchange revenue may grow more than twofold versus year-ago levels to some $4 billion.

The Bernstein report, as cited in Bloomberg, is entitled: “Crypto Trading — The Next Big Thing Is Here?” The title alone reflects a more open-minded if not sanguine take on the cryptocurrency market, more specifically speculative trading. Last year, leading crypto exchanges generated $1.8 billion in transaction fees, which according to the Sanford analysts is 8% of what Wall Street exchanges made. Based on this metric of transaction fees, cryptocurrency trading was second only to global cash equities.

Courtesy: Bloomberg

The outlook may seem shocking, considering that the bitcoin price is down more than 60% from last year’s peak. But leading cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume Binance, which boasts millions of users, tipped its hand to balance sheet strength. The exchange’s CEO CZ recently provided an outlook, saying the company was on track to deliver record profits this year of as much as $1 billion, as CCN previously reported.  On the low end of its range, Binance is looking at $500 million.

Advantage Goes to Coinbase

Meanwhile, Bernstein analysts are quick to point out that Wall Street banks have largely been on the sidelines of crypto, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan’s crypto trading and blockchain investments notwithstanding. As a result, the could find themselves in an unusual competitive position where crypto exchanges like Coinbase dominate market share. Coinbase already boasts some “50% of the transaction revenue pool,” according to Bloomberg, and fears of fraud coupled with a murky regulatory climate hold the big banks at bay.

“As the crypto-asset class seasons and institutional demand builds, there are a plethora of opportunities for traditional firms,” according to Bernstein analysts, who then pointed to examples across custody, portfolio management and making markets, for instance.

Indeed, the persistent downturn in the cryptocurrency market, particularly in the bitcoin price, has had observers wondering how crypto exchanges could offset the damage. After all, they generate revenue based on trading volume.

Exchanges like Coinbase have been adding coins, most recently Ethereum Classic (ETC) but they’ve got several more altcoins waiting in the wings that they’re looking to support. While Coinbase officials have stated that these new altcoin additions are in response to trader demand, it’s also a way for them to continue to collect trading revenues while the bitcoin price has been stalled. Binance, meanwhile, whose trading volume hovers at approximately $1.4 billion in the last 24 hours, supports hundreds of altcoins.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Gerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.